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  2. Aug 1, 2023

Illinois Plant-Based School Lunch Law Goes Into Effect Aug. 1

Plant-based school lunches will be made available starting this school year to all 2 million public school students in Illinois who submit a request, thanks to a law that went into effect on Aug. 1, 2023. This law will make Illinois a national leader in providing healthy plant-based options in schools.

The law, sponsored by state representative Cyril Nichols and state senator Dave Koehler, requires school districts to provide a plant-based school lunch option that complies with the National School Lunch Program to students who submit a prior request to the school district. The new law states:

“As a part of the school lunch program, a school district shall provide a plant-based school lunch option that complies with federal nutritional mandates to those students who submit a prior request to the school district requesting a plant-based school lunch option.”

Parents or caregivers who want their child to have plant-based breakfasts or lunches, should notify their school administrators as soon as possible to ensure that they have the capacity to supply the meals of choice.

“I applaud Illinois for requiring schools to offer students plant-based options that can help them stay healthy and fight conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes,” says Stephanie McBurnett, RDN, a nutrition educator with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Plant-based diets have been shown to help improve childhood obesity, an epidemic that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A low-fat, vegan diet also lowers the risk of heart disease in obese children by improving their weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, according to a Cleveland Clinic Study.

In a case study conducted by the Physicians Committee at a K-8 school in Washington, D.C., plant-based meals contained triple the amount of fiber found in standard school lunch entrees. The plant-based entrees also had zero cholesterol (compared with an average of 54 milligrams in the standard entrees), more iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C, and less fat and saturated fat.

Illinois can now provide a model to other states in providing healthy options at schools. Schools nationwide could benefit from more plant-based options if Congress passes the “Healthy Future Students and Earth Act,” (H.R. 3276) which would provide much-needed resources to local school districts to expand healthful plant-based meal options.

The Physicians Committee has plant-based school lunch resources including tips and webinars for school food service professionals, as well as quantity plant-based school lunch recipes that meeting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program requirements at

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